News: ‘Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition’ and Video

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Built in Baltimore. While many people associate Jennie Alexander’s chairs with country woodcraft, she lived in urban Baltimore, where she developed the design for her chair.

For the last five years, we worked with Jennie Alexander to revise her classic “Make a Chair from a Tree” book to her satisfaction and include all her latest thoughts and approaches to building her iconic ladderback chair.

Jennie’s efforts were assisted primarily by chairmaker and friend Larry Barrett and Jennie Boyd, who cared for Jennie Alexander in her Baltimore home during her final years.

JA_chair_IMG_8643With Jennie Alexander’s death this summer, we had to evaluate the future of the book. Could it be completed in a way that would make Jennie happy? Did we have the support of people who could help us finish the book? Did we have the support of the family and heirs?

The good news is that we are now moving at full speed to complete “Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition” for publication next year. The writing is almost complete. What is left is taking new photographs of the chair’s construction and commissioning new illustrations.

Larry will build the chair for the photographs. And we will enlist many other people who were close to Jennie to help us finish this book in a way that would make her happy.

I suspect this is the outcome Jennie anticipated all along.

During the last five years, Jennie and I butted heads whenever I applied gentle pressure to turn over her manuscript to me. If you have ever met Jennie, then you know that such tactics are futile. At one point I said to her: “Don’t you want to see your book published and see it influence a whole new generation of woodworkers?”

Jennie shot back: “You and Larry will do that after I’m gone.”

At that moment it became clear to me that Jennie saw the work on the book as her purpose at the end of her life. Taking the book away from her would remove that purpose. I backed off.

So don’t pay $500 (or whatever the book gougers are asking) for a used copy of “Make a Chair from a Tree.” In less than a year, we will have an outstanding new edition for you that will cost a small fraction of that and will be more durable.

In the meantime, we will soon offer the video version of “Make a Chair from a Tree” for sale as a streaming video on our site. We have reached an agreement with the maker of the video, Anatol Polillo, to offer the video for sale for $25. The streaming video will include a pdf download of a packet of drawings from Jennie that explain the dimensions and jigs discussed in the video.

With any luck, we should have that video available within two weeks.

— Christopher Schwarz

Personal side note: This has been one of the most difficult years of my professional life. I lost my father in February. And I’ve spent the last nine months racing to get “The Intelligent Hand” to press to beat David Savage’s cancer. Simultaneously, I worked into the wee hours to get “Welsh Stick Chairs” to press before the 10-year anniversary of John Brown’s death. And then Jennie died – opening a whole can of contractual worms. So I ask all our current authors: Please stay healthy.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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25 Responses to News: ‘Make a Chair from a Tree, Third Edition’ and Video

  1. Dean Hummel says:

    I cannot imagine a more appropriate tribute to Jennie’s life and work than completing the publication of the latest edition of Make A Chair From A Tree. Well done Mr. Schwarz and List Art Press!!!!

  2. Lignarium says:

    These are great news Chris. I got the video from Anatol a month before Jennie passed away. I am definitely going to order the book as soon as is for sale. Cheers

  3. To quote that giant of philosophy, Conan the Barbarian: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Things will get better. Hang in there.

    • I believe Conan is most known for his paraphrasing of a quote attributed to Genghis Khan when he replied to the question of what is best in life with, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

      But perhaps he also paraphrased Nietzsche… After all, he was taken to the east, a great prize, where the war masters would teach him the deepest secrets. Language and writing were also made available, the poetry of Khitai, the philosophy of Sung; and he also came to know the pleasures of women, when he was bred to the finest stock.

      So he may, too, have read Nietzsche.

      But, always, there remained the discipline of steel.

  4. johncashman73 says:

    Count me in! The first two woodworking books I bought, way back, were Jennie’s and Franklin Gottshall. Yeah, in hindsight it’s an odd pairing.

    Green woodworking was very popular back in the seventies. But I stopped using polyethylene glycol to work green wood when I discovered it’s the same chemical they give you as a colostomy prep.

  5. Robert says:

    I have the first edition of the book and the original video. I will jump on the revised edition and download as soon as they are available.

  6. Sean Yates says:

    HUZZAH!

  7. hgordon4 says:

    Wow, $500… that’s crazy. I found a first edition, second printing a few years ago for $75.
    But I look forward to purchasing your new 3rd edition!

  8. mike says:

    Markets are funny. $500 seems like a lot for a used book, but I paid $250 in college for a new print of Kieso and Weygandt Intermediate Accounting (6th edition), lol. Makes deluxe LAP Roubo or a first print Zeppelin II LP a bargain. Further, now that I am at the point where i can splurge on myself a bit, I have looked into auction prices of Krenov’s cabinets (the furniture, not the books). They rarely come up, but typically sell for $2000 to $5000. Yes, a lot for a piece of furniture but just think about how little your current vehicle will be worth in 10 years…

    • Fancy Lad Woodworking says:

      Lol, yeah, good point. I probably spent $1000/year on textbooks in university. Some would say that that price got me an education, which is priceless…but I know that I’d get a lot more practical use now out of the LAP Roubo than my intro to biochem text.

  9. snwoodwork says:

    Even though I doubt I will ever get the green wood needed to make this chair, I will still buy the book. Very exciting, looking forward to this.

  10. Fancy Lad Woodworking says:

    Super excited for this book. I casually looked it up a few years ago when I first heard about Jenny, and was shocked that it was out of print and copies were going for several hundred.

  11. Bills yard says:

    What a fitting tribute and legacy and thank you to the good people of at the Lost Art press.

  12. Simon Stucki says:

    great news those chairs are so beautiful. I’m glad you found a way that makes everyone happy 🙂

  13. Kevin Adams says:

    Chris, thank you for carrying the torch forward. Not an easy journey, but so important and meaningful.

  14. Jim Dillon says:

    Publishing this is a real service to the world. As the 3 Stooges used to toast each other: “For Duty! and Humanity!”

  15. Armand says:

    Well done!

    I applaud your substantial efforts! As you indicated in your personal note, this all sounds very difficult on numerous levels. It takes tremendous fortitude to persevere in all such matters!

  16. Kim M. says:

    Thanks so much, Chris! Don’t think for a minute that your efforts are not greatly appreciated by more people than you know! Looking forward to the third edition, and so much more to come from you and LAP.

  17. Jason L. says:

    Great news Chris, thanks!

  18. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  19. treenworks says:

    This makes my day. Thank you once again.

    • Count me in. I already have the video but have been waiting for the book. Hang in there, Chris. It’s always darkest before the dawn. I’m sure thekiltedwoodworker knows where that phrase originated too.

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